2010 Candidate for Director
Brenda Burkett, CPA
Chief Financial Officer
Norman Public Schools
Question and Answer Forum
For the first time in history, we find ourselves working in an environment where four different generations work side by side. As you consider the impact this has on the workforce and specifically the school business profession, what implication does that have for ASBO International and how would you recommend we support these generational differences?
Brenda Burkett Answer 1:
When are you going to retire? If you asked that question 20 to 30 years ago, most people would’ve answered somewhere in their early to mid sixties. Today that question has no certain answer anymore. As people live longer, and plan on their living expenses increasing every year, the need to continue working outweighs the desire to retire. And with the downturn in the economy and most retirement account balances taking a drastic hit…many employees simply can’t afford to retire early.
This phenomenon has created an older generation in the workforce. But that is not a bad thing. Quite frankly, having employees that can mentor and provide training for the younger generation can be a real positive for the workforce and for the school business profession. Your seasoned staff has been around long enough that they know what works and what doesn’t. This is not to say that the older generation should be close-minded to the ideas of the younger generation of workers, but there is certainly value in the knowledge and understanding that the seasoned staff brings to the table.
Now, can the older generation learn something new from the younger staff members in return? You bet. The fresh ideas brought into the school business profession by the younger staff members can often provide the spark that is perhaps lacking in the members of the team that have been around awhile. The younger staff can energize the older staff member that is coasting along, perhaps unwilling to try new ideas or technology.
It takes a great leader to make these two ends of the generational spectrum work together. With the differences that all generations bring to the table, leadership is vital to reigning in the talents of these different individuals. There can be a “we’ve always done it this way” mindset that causes some staff to dig in their heels and be close minded to the innovative ideas being suggested by the new staff member, if a strong leader is not there to facilitate.
ASBO International can support these generational differences by acknowledging that its members span all these generations. Members of ASBO need to have opportunities to learn from fellow members that have solutions and have experienced positive results within this ever changing workforce. Providing members with the resources and training to make them effective leaders, able to bridge the generational gaps and work towards one common goal of doing what is right for kids, should be a major component of the professional development offered by ASBO in the future.
What role do you believe the school business official should play with regard to the educational leadership team in a district?
Brenda Burkett Answer 2:
School business officials are key members of the educational leadership team in a district. It is important for us to be sitting at the table as the educational programs and services for our students are being planned by our instructional leader teammates. As decisions are being made, it is our role to ensure sufficient funding is in place to support these educational initiatives being proposed.
Unfortunately, due to the funding issues facing all of us today, we find ourselves all struggling to maintain programs and services that we know are vital to the academic achievement of our students. So we business officials often face the unpleasant task of having to be the one that says no to the team’s request for continuance of a program, or implementation of an initiative, that we all know would be wonderful for our students. With most school districts spending upwards of 85-90% in personnel, there is very little discretionary funding available, and certainly no room for error.
As school business officials, we must serve as the steward of the taxpayer’s dollars, and make the necessary budgetary recommendations to the rest of the educational team, and to our Boards of Education, that will ensure that the district will remain solvent, even during these economic downturns.
In addition to the ever-challenging economic pressures public education faces, what other challenges do you see to the school business profession in the coming years and how do you think ASBO International can support our members relative to these changes?
Brenda Burkett Answer 3:
Certainly the biggest challenge facing the school business profession today is that we are embarking on one of the most difficult financial times ever seen in public education. We are facing the daunting task of maintaining quality education with scarce resources. We are trying to improve the quality of education while at the same time we are losing teachers, raising class sizes, and eliminating programs.
Even though financial times are tough, there is still a challenge we must face to make the best of the situation, and to continue the academic gains we’ve made over the past decade. And the challenge will be to keep a positive attitude with our staff, and more importantly with our students. There aren’t a lot of 2nd graders that are going to stop and ask their teacher ‘how is the school budget looking this year?’ It’s not their problem. It’s an adult problem. We have got to keep our staff engaged with a positive attitude, because that 2nd grader is only in 2nd grade once. We can’t look at them and say “you know, we really wanted to provide you with a good education this year, but the budget just wasn’t there to make that happen. Sorry.” So the challenge will be to continue doing the best for our students, no matter what.
Another challenge will be accountability and maintaining ethical business practices. We read every day about superintendents or school business officials that are caught mis-handling or perhaps even embezzling school funds. We must all have internal controls in place to keep this from happening. In these tough economic times, school business officials must not let our profession be disgraced because of the few that will take advantage of that situation. Those stories that make the paper paint our entire profession with a negative image.
In all of these instances, and with all of these challenges, ASBO
must continue to provide the professional development and network
opportunities school business officials can count on. As individuals, we
are all dedicated to the students that we serve. ASBO can support its
members by providing the network needed to work cooperatively and to
share creative ideas with one another.